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Cougars Are Off-Base in Setback

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March 21, 2007
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. –- Biola scored single runs in the tenth and eighth innings to pull out a pair of extra-inning victories and sweep a key GSAC doubleheader from Azusa Pacific Wednesday evening at the Cougar Softball Complex. Biola won the first game, 4-3, and took the nightcap, 2-1.

Azusa Pacific rallied late in both games to force extra innings and certainly had its fair share of opportunities to win the first game and at least force additional play in the second game. Yet, the Cougars were unable to produce in key situations, and thus suffered its second straight GSAC twinbill setback.

In the opening game, Biola moved out to a 3-1 lead after 3 innings of play. A Krista Johnson suicide bunt scored Amerra Kesterson to break a 1-1 tie with 1 out. Keena Levert followed with a single to deep short to plate Sarah Jensen and give the Eagles to a 2-run advantage that they enjoyed for the next 3 innings.

However, in the bottom of the sixth, Azusa Pacific needed just 1 hit to score a pair of runs and knot the game at 3-3, taking advantage of a pair of Eagle fielding miscues in the process. Sophomore catcher Natlie Mickelson led off the inning with sharply-laced double to left-center, and came home when Biola pitcher Katie Gustaveson threw away Courtney Cleave’s sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing Cleaves to scoot to second base. She went to third on a Gustaveson wild pitch and came home on Tierney Burk’s sacrifice fly to right field.

In the eighth and ninth innings, the Cougars opted not to bunt over a runner from second base, and instead left the potential game-winning run in scoring position both innings. Finally in the tenth, Kesterson scored what proved to be the game-winning run, trotting home from third base on a Lindsay Nuckolls’s 1-out single to leftfield.

In the bottom of the tenth, the Cougars’ sacrificed Bethany Weisser to third base but were unable to push her across as Eagle reliever Tatiana Garcia induced Justine Barnett into a foul fly out and Tami Carter into a fly out.

In the nightcap, Biola took a quick 1-0 lead when Kesterson led off the game with her first home run of the season, a shot to right-center. Eagle hurler Emily Gray nearly made the single run stand up the entire game, moving to within 1 strike of collecting her third shutout victory of the season. However, with 2 outs in the seventh inning, Weisser ripped an 0-2 offering back up the middle to score Cleaves from third base with the game-tying run.

In the top of the eighth, Kacie Lyding’s 2-out single off the tip of the glove of Cougar third baseman Jessi Besseghini sent Levert home with the go-ahead run. It later proved to be the game-winning run when umpires James Walker and Sue Sawyer waved off what the Cougars’ thought had been a game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth.

In that frame, Lori Shimasaki sacrificed Erika Navarrete to third base. After Barnett walked and stole a base to put Cougars at second and third base with 1 out, Carter lifted what appeared to be a game-tying sacrifice fly to left field. Biola was unable to throw out Navarrete at home but did pick off Barnett at second base for the third out.

As Biola players left the field and Azusa Pacific players assumed their defensive positions to start the ninth inning, Walker and Sawyer convened the 2 head coaches and ruled Navarrete out for leaving third base too early, thus negating the game-tying run and giving the victory to Biola.

Biola, which collects its first victories over Azusa Pacific in any sport this season (the Cougars were 11-0 vs. Biola in soccer, volleyball, basketball and baseball), improves to 16-6 overall and 4-6 in the GSAC, while Azusa Pacific falls to 10-14 overall and 2-8 in the GSAC.

Shimasaki finished the day 5-for-7 at the plate with a run and 2 stolen bases.